Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 9:35 A.M. - down the street from my office. This time of year the morning sun strikes the facades in full light for only fifteen minutes before disappearing behind the taller buildings to the south.
February 22nd this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of Andy Warhol's death. He's been gone for a quarter century. I wonder what Andy would have done with the new world of Twitter, You Tube, Facebook, and Photoshop. After all, he got there first, and the tools of social media could well be considered his proflegate progeny.
On a trip to Pittsburgh several years ago, I took a detour between the airport and the city to find his grave on a steep hillside in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Bethel Park, a suburb south of Pittsburgh.
I found Andy without the final "A" rests downhill from his parents surrounded by pink petunias and Campbell's Soup cans:
Mr. and Mrs. Warhola's grave. His mother, Julia, lived with him in Manhattan from 1951 to 1971:
Andy's view for eternity:
Little brick suburban houses.
I found Andy's grave site to be oddly moving. He left his childhood home in Pittsburgh far behind to become an art world superstar, but was brought back to Pittsburgh to be buried on an ordinary hillside below his immigrant parents. Warhol himself, though, wasn't much of one for sentiment - as in this typically deadpan comment about death:
“I never understood why when you died, you didn't just vanish, everything should just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn't be there. I always thought I'd like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and no name. Well, actually, I'd like it to say 'figment'.”
Here are the only Warhols that I own (thanks Alison!):
They're even signed (sort of). The soup inside expired on July 5, 2008 - twenty-one years after Andy.
He looks, rather appropriately, like an alien cyborg with a Polaroid camera at the ready and holding a Bloomingdale's Medium Brown Bag.
The anniversary of Andy Warhol's death led me to think about the loss of Keith Haring on February 16, 1990 - twenty-two years ago - a casualty of AIDS. Of course Andy and Keith were friends.
Here's Keith as a boy; as a subway graffiti artist (white chalk on empty black advertising panels), and with Jean-Michel Basquiat (another deep loss):
I went to Deitch Projects gallery in Soho in February 2010 to see Keith Haring’s mural for the gym of the South of Market Childcare Center in San Francisco (SOMACC) that he created in 1985. The mural was dismantled in 2006 when SOMACC moved to a new location. The gallery was empty and I had my camera:
On a mid-October Sunday morning, Peter and I headed uptown in search of some New York history. We wanted to have a look at the Upper Manhattan sites where Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton slept, albeit not together - at least as far as we know.
First on our list was the Morris-Jumel Mansion on 160th Street which is Manhattan's oldest house and was Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War. Then came Hamilton Grange 20 blocks to the south which was Alexander Hamilton's home that has been recently restored and relocated. In between we made stops at the Hispanic Society of America on Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Trinity Church's uptown cemetery.
In the Columbus Circle subway station, the M.T. A.'s little list of "Planned Service Changes" was a bit daunting:
Nevertheless, we were able to catch a speedy A Train to 168th Street to the part of Manhattan stretching from the Morningside Heights to Washington Heights on the upper Upper West Side that sits on top of a steep ridge high above the Hudson river to the west and the Harlem River to the east. This densely packed neighborhood, located at the island's narrowest point, is only 3 or 4 blocks wide in places.
The estates built on top of this elevated spine in the 18th and early 19th centuries had commanding views of both rivers and the rest of Manhattan to the south. The population today is a crazy quilt mix of Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, African American (Sugar Hill was where the elite of Harlem Renaissance lived), City College professors, and Millennial gentrifiers.
We walked east down the MOST AMAZING street in all of New York - one block long Sylvan Terrace which leads to the Morris-Jumel Mansion. The identical houses were built in 1882 and look like they've been air lifted in from New Orleans, Charleston, or maybe San Francisco. They are proud survivors:
The Morris-Jumel Mansion at the end of the block was built in 1765 for Colonel Roger Morris, a Royalist, as a summer residence above the Harlem Valley. During the War of Independence General George Washington used it as his headquarters Battle of Harlem Heights in the autumn of 1776. http://www.morrisjumel.org/
There is an overgrown garden behind the house:
Where Peter explored the limits of the space-time continuum:
The adjacent park on the cliffs above the Harlem River offers a hint at what the original landscape must have looked like. There are glimpses of the Harlem River and the slopes of the Bronx (just north of Yankee Stadium) between the housing projects below:
There were signs that native endangered species of cross-dressing deer and pedestrian-pecking wildfowl were returning to the neighborhood:
We were followed by this annoying child who pops up all over town. Would someone please donate their car so she can get her cheek-reduction surgery?!?
We walked ten blocks south to Audubon Terrace at Broadway and 155th St. - a collection of neglected Beaux Arts buildings arranged on a linear plaza that was once home of the American Geographical Society, the American Numismatic Society, the Museum of the American Indian. Today only the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Boricua College, and the Hispanic Society of America remain as tenants.
The complex was built starting in 1907 by the railroad heir, Archer Huntington, in anticipation that the largely rural area would attract wealthy residents and other cultural institutions would follow - which never happened. Because of the Hispanic Society's "remote" location, their amazing collection of Spanish art (including paintings by Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco) is little visited. The whole place had a forlorn and forgotten air - a treasure trove waiting to be appreciated:
Our next stop was Trinity Church's uptown cemetery one block south which was espablishet in 1842 as the "country" burial ground for Trinity Church down on Broadway at Wall STreet. The location at 151st Street was close to the former estate of John James Audubon who is buried in the cemetery along with Alfred Tennyson Dickens, son of Charles Dickens, John Jacob Astor, Ralph Ellison, and Clement Clark Moore, author of the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.
The cemetery seems light years removed from the workaday world of nearby Broadway.
Clement Moore's (1779-1863) family tombstone:
Alfred Tennyson Dickens, son of Charles Dickens, 1835-1912:
Peter communed with John James Audubon:
A magnificant Tulip Tree:
What's up with this, Episcopalians?!?
We walked further south through Hamilton Heights past block after block of beautiful buildings:
Including one very odd one from the 1960's:
Finally we arrived at Alexander Hamilton's home, Hamilton Grange on 141st Street, which was completed in 1802 just two years before Hamilton was killed in his dual with Aaron Burr. The house re-opened this past fall after being closed for five years while it was relocated for the second time in its history.
First, in 1889 the house was moved four blocks when the Manhattan street grid was laid over his former estate and a Romanesque church was built that wrapped around it. For the second move in 2008, the house was lifted thirty feet up in the air to pass over the church's porch, then one block over and down a steep hill to a more open setting in park below City College. The Grange was then completely renovated and restored. The results are magnificant.